Alex Cole did not want to be in my story. But after he stole my girlfriend
and consequently threw me into ten months of depression, I thought it would
serve him right.
He was my college roommate and, during our senior year, I loved madly the
girl that lived next door. Her name is Carla Spenser. At the end of the
year, Alex, a very jealous man, burned up like a satellite upon reentry.
He turned nasty and vicious and callow and callous, and before my very eyes
stole Carla away, clutching her in his boney white claws.
He grabbed her like a bag of groceries and toted her around, showing her
off to everyone like you would display canned fruit. She's not happy with
him, I assure you of that, and it's about time I took back what is rightfully
His feelings are, no doubt, centered around his groin. His lust is like
a camel's thirst for water. Contrarily, my feelings for Carla are pure and
divine. I feel about her the way the Druids felt about Stonehenge or the
Romans about the aqueducts.
Late at night, Alex shops in the Ralph's that sits halfway between his house
and my apartment. He stocks up on Trix, yanking boxes off the shelves and
throwing them into his cart until there are none left.
"I need more Trix." He yells over the shelves of the empty market.
A boxboy rushes down the aisle to soothe him.
"Is there a problem, Sir?"
"You're out of Trix. Do I look like a fucking rabbit? No, I don't.
So I'm entitled to my Trix."
The boxboy timidly looks into Alex's cart, "You've got 40 boxes, Sir.
How many do you want?"
"Enough for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the next two
months. I like Trix."
This is illustrative of the bastard.
The young man disappears into the store room and hunts frantically for
a case of the sugar flavored wheat puffs. He dashes up and down the cereal
aisle and, when he can't find them there, vainly searches the other aisles.
Meanwhile, Alex pours powdered sugar on the floor out of sheer pettiness.
He laughs angrily.
After another moment, the boxboy returns fearfully, taking shuffling baby
steps toward Alex. "I'm sorry, Sir, but we're out."
Alex stands up straight, every muscle tightening. Slowly, he pushes his
cart aside and takes a step toward the boxboy. Quivering, the boxboy steps
backward. Alex reaches to the small of his back and procures a handgun from
the waist of his Levi's.
"I can call our other stores."
"I won't wait."
It's at this time that I turn up the cereal aisle with my shopping cart
full of well balanced meals and environmentally conscientious purchases.
I see Alex aiming a silver gun at the boy falling to his knees, begging
for his life. Immediately, I speak out against this injustice.
"Drop it, Alex."
He turns on his heels as I pass the oatmeal. He points the handgun at me.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't my old roommate, Peter."
"Put down the gun."
"And if I don't?"
"I'll make you." I push my cart aside after pulling a 24 ounce
jar of blue cheese dressing from it. I walk toward him, his open eye peering
over the sight of the gun.
"You little prick," he says.
"Why am I a prick? You're the one that never bought toilet paper."
But reasoning doesn't work with Alex. It never did. You ask him to buy
toilet paper, you ask him to rotate the dishes so they all get used equally,
you ask him to put all the newspaper sections back together when he's done
and he calls you anal retentive.
The boxboy silently crawls away now that Alex has his back to him.
"I've finally got a chance to kill you." He fires a shot to my
left and hits a jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce. Its blood red contents and
glass cascade down the shelves and puddle on the floor.
"Can't you go anywhere without making a mess?"
"You haven't changed much have you?" He fingers the revolver,
putting his index finger on the trigger again. "Good-bye."
Like lightning, I throw the blue cheese and, just as he pulls the trigger,
it hits his firing hand. The jar shatters. The bullet goes off course, piercing
Jose Canseco on a box of Wheaties. Alex cries out in pain and falls to the
ground clutching his hand. A shard of glass is imbedded in his thumb. He
rolls in the blue cheese and shattered glass. I retrieve my cart and head
toward the cashier.
"I have some coupons." I tell her.
The next day, after four o'clock when she gets done with work, Carla
walks up to Alex's house. She has decided that it is time to break up with
him. It will be difficult because of his violent and angry nature, but he
has left her with no choice. Especially after she heard about last night.
Carla wears black shorts and a black blouse with white lace against her
tan neck. Her curly brown hair is tied back in a white bow and, even though
she doesn't feel like it, she is smiling. He makes her.
"Where have you been?" he demands stumbling out of bed, his hand
wrapped in gauze.
"You've been drinking."
"A little whiskey. You're late."
"I'm sorry," she says, afraid to look directly into his bloodshot
"Sorry doesn't cut it. Look at this. I've been bleeding and you're
running around town with God knows who."
"You've cut your hand." her voice holds no compassion, but indicates
her worn patience.
"Damn right I've cut my hand." He blusters, his lower lip flapping
in his wind. "And it hurts really, really bad. I could have died."
"It doesn't look that bad."
"That bad! That bad?" he erupts. "I'm bleeding. I have a
hole in my hand bigger than a dime. I almost passed out from blood loss
and you say 'it doesn't look that bad?'"
"Well...Maybe you deserved it."
"What are you getting at?"
"I'm just saying that sometimes you can get carried-"
"Shut up. Don't talk back to me." He stands atop his bed swinging
his arms violently until he almost loses his balance.
"I'm just saying that, perhaps, you overreacted last night. Maybe Peter
"What the fuck do you know? You're just a woman. I'm the one dying."
"You're acting like a child. I bet Peter wouldn't act this way."
And she's right, I wouldn't. In fact, I wouldn't even mention the wound.
Of course, she would notice the scar while we made love and offer to rub
salve into it. I would bite down and say, no, it's not that bad.
"Peter this, Peter that!" Alex yells hopping off his bed and raising
his arms above his head. "You're my woman. My property! My Boardwalk.
My Park Place. And if I want to put up hotels I can. Got it?"
"Don't say that." she begs. The smile she brought in with her
fades and the corners cave in. Her eyes fill with tears. "I'm not a
piece of property."
Alex is transported to a series of primal shrugs and grunts as he storms
around the room. "Not...you...mine...understand... mine...urgh."
Carla can take no more of this. She buries her head in her hands and closes
her big brown eyes. "I don't love you anymore, Alex."
"Love?" he cries kicking the box springs with all his might. "Ouch."
"Christ!" he continues, "Love is not what this is about.
Love is the farthest thing from my mind. No, I take pleasure in knowing
that while I have you, no other man can. Especially Peter."
""I don't care, Alex. I don't love you anymore. I don't think
I ever loved you. It's Peter I love. I regret that it has taken me this
long to learn that."
Alex turns on his heels, thrusts a stubby finger in Carla's face and grits
his teeth. "I'll kill Peter first."
"No, Alex. Leave him alone."
"If you say another word about Peter, fucking Peter, so help me. I
swear to God, I'll kill him."
"You're no match for him. You cannot defeat Peter."
"That does it!" Alex jumps back up on his bed and screams. He
leaps off and throws open his closet door. Inside is a storehouse of modern
day war machines. Lustfully, he runs his index finger over them before deciding
on an automatic rifle mostly used for killing endangered species. He takes
a sixteen foot strap of bullets and throws it over his shoulder and grabs
the rifle by the butt. "I'll kill that son of a bitch."
Carla runs from the room and out of the house.
Probably, all of this is surprising to you because when you see Alex
and Carla walking around town they smile and laugh. They shop together,
They hold hands. They eat in restaurants together sharing jokes that only
they know the punchlines to. But it is all a show. There is trouble in their
paradise. That sunny and loving show they put on for all of us, including
me, is a mask for one of the most sadistic and brutal relationships ever.
If you look closely into her eyes, you can see what I see.
This last scene is something I anticipated, however, and have parked my
car outside Alex's house.
The front door bursts open and Carla runs across the dying brown lawn, her
vision blurred by tears.
"Get in." I hold the door open for her.
She looks at me, her cheeks stained, "Oh, Peter. You're an angel."
"No time for that now." I shut the door behind her at the same
time that Alex barrels out into his driveway. He kneels down, balancing
his rifle over one knee.
"You bastard!" he shouts. I dive over the hood of my Corolla and
crawl through the open window.
"Put on your seat belt."
"Oh, Peter, I feel like such a fool."
"Don't. We all make mistakes." I take one hand off the wheel and
press it against her now dry cheek.
"Where are we going?"
"Away. Someplace Peter wouldn't even think of looking."
"You're so wise."
Dusk turns to night and the mountains give way to the flat desert basin.
In the dirty valleys Joshua Trees become Saguaro, their sillhouettes illuminated
from the rear by the full moon as we pass them at the legal speed limit.
Carla reclines her seat and sleeps peacefully, a faint, sincere grin playing
on her lips. She is finally happy.
Elsewhere, Alex bangs an angry fist on the furry dashboard of his Camaro.
An impulse flashes through his angry flesh to his angry bones and travels
to his mind as though through pneumatic tubes. He releases a primal scream
and presses harder on the accelerator.
I will check every state in the continental United States, he says, ignoring
Hawaii and Alaska. I will track her down and punish her accordingly. Nobody
makes me look bad.
The back seat is better stocked than the armament of many South American
countries: machine guns, handguns, sabers, pocket knives, maces and a small
How has he kept this dark side a secret, you ask. My response is that
it has never been hidden; you just haven't been looking. You're too busy
saying "Alex is fun" and "Alex is nice" to open your
"We're safe here." I say, putting her suitcase in the small closet
by the bathroom. I hang the "Do Not Disturb" on the door before
turning to her. She looks out the window, over the moonlit parking lot and
sage brush. Her face is taut.
"You know that he has weapons of destruction."
"Not a problem." I say putting a hand on her shoulder.
She doesn't resist, covering it with her own hand. "How will you protect
I pull my weapon from my toilet kit and hold it so that she can read the
"I do." The tight creases around her eyes soften and I can tell
she is at ease.
"Let's get some sleep."
"You're too good for me, Peter," she sighs and a single tear slips
off her cheek, "I don't even know why I came here."
"I'm glad you did," I say wrapping my arms around her shaking
"I had a crazy idea. I don't even know why..."
"Please, say it."
"It's just that...I love you, Peter."
"I know. And I love you."
She smiles, "Even after Alex?"
"It wasn't your fault. He forced you to date him, didn't he?"
She buries her head in my sweater and the tears come faster. "Yes.
It was so awful." I squeeze tighter.
"It's over. It's over now. I'm here." I kiss her on the crown
of her head. "There's two beds here. Do you want the one by the door
or the one by the window?"
Slowly, Carla tilts her head up and looks deeply into my eyes. She breathes
deeply and whispers, "Can't we share?"
I smile, "Do you want to make love?"
"Yes," she says softly.
Although this happens quickly, it's not sleazy. Quite the contrary. She
has been thinking about this moment since the first time we met. And so
Alex roams the highways of our nation, foolishly wasting fossil fuel. He
travels north to Montana and south to Florida all to douse the raging fire
in his ego. He is angry. Arrggh, he says.
Four hours later, as the mission bell strikes midnight, we lay in the
dark with the covers pulled up to our waists and her head resting on my
chest. My arms are wrapped around Carla's waist and her thighs rest on the
inside of mine.
"I'm so happy," she says tilting her head back to look at me.
"I never thought I could be this satisfied."
This is not boasting. I've run this moment through my mind many times
and it is always outstanding.
I kiss her lightly on the forehead, "Me too."
"What happens next?"
"Alex won't find us. We don't need to worry about him."
"You saved my life. Do you know that?" she asks.
"Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our lives...together."
"You're so sensitive and handsome." She can hardly contain the
admiration and love that ripple her emotions like tossed stones ripple the
surface of a duck pond.
We lay talking about our innermost feelings for what feels like minutes,
but must be hours because the sun begins to press against the thin curtains.
I hold Carla and she closes her eyes. But just as Carla begins to fall asleep
she opens her eyes and her muscles tense.
"Did you hear something?" she asks, her voice quivering.
I hold her tighter reassuringly, "No. Go to sleep."
There is a jiggling of the door handle followed by a heavy pounding.
"No," I say, "it's only the maid."
"I'll cut your belly open." comes a muffled voice through the
"I'm scared, Peter."
"There's nothing to fear except fear itself." I jump out of the
bed, throw on a pair of cords and grab my salad dressing. Carla draws the
sheets up over her naked body as I stand behind the door which bows under
Alex's black military boot breaks through the door and his hand reaches
through the fresh hole to open it from the inside.
"This time I'll kill you." He's wearing camouflaged military garb,
knee high boots and green and black war paint. He grips an army issue machine
gun and swings its barrel to alternate pointing at me and Carla.
"I'm going to waste you."
"Alex, your hostility has gotten the better of you."
"Shut up and sit down."
"Can't we talk this through like adults?" I ask with the sensitivity
and wisdom that has drawn Carla to me.
"Sit down, I said."
"How'd you find us?"
"Shut up." He bends my nose with the cold steel of the heavy machine
"You like her? Do you like her?" He asks. "Do you?"
"I can talk now?"
"No. Shut up." He catches me in the jaw with the gun barrel. Carla
lets out a soft cry and touches her lips to my face.
"Get away from him!"
"No, Alex. I love him." She kisses me defiantly. Alex raises the
gun and brings it down swiftly on her temple. She lets out a cry and falls
to the ground.
Quickly, I drop to my knees and take her in my arms. I stare at him, a rage
barely contained in my eyes. "Look what you've done."
His breathing falters momentarily and he sets down the gun. "Jesus,
Peter, you made me hit her. I didn't want to do that."
"Don't blame me for your violent tendencies."
"But, it's your story."
"I will not let your bully tactics scare me, Alex. What Carla and I
have is true love." I proclaim, placing a hand on Carla's. She is conscious,
but woozy, her body limp against the mauve carpet.
"Okay, I'm quitting." Alex paces back and forth. "Here's
what I don't understand. How can she possibly love you? We've been dating
for ten months. She's never said I treated her bad and if she did, I'd listen."
"There's more to love than that," I dare to speak. "Someday
you might understand." Carla slips her fingers in between mine and
I squeeze her hand.
"What the hell are you talking about? You've never even dated her.
You wanted to, everybody knows that. She's all you used to talk about. But
did you ever ask her out?"
"What's that got to do with anything?"
Alex sits on the bed opposite Carla and me. He rubs his chin, "Let's
go back to the top of the first page. Now, at the beginning of the story,
you refer to Carla as your girlfriend, but you never even asked her out.
So where do you get off calling her your girlfriend?"
"And then you bring me into the story. You make me look like an ass
running around with a gun and cracking people all over the head. I'm not
"Whose story is this?" I demand, courageously protecting Carla
by putting my body between the gun and her.
"It's your story. And I think I was a pretty good sport to go along
with it for as long as I did. But, when you have me hurt Carla, I can't
take it anymore. I mean, I'm opposed to hunting, and guns make me squeamish.
Yet, you have me with a closet full of rifles. For Christ's sake, I'm a
member of the Pro-Peace party."
He ignores the voice of reason and rolls on, "In a matter of one night
you have me drive to Montana, to Florida, then back here to...where is this,
I turn to Carla and look deeply into her eyes, "Don't let him destroy
the castle that we've built. The castle of our love."
"And you disarm me with salad dressing? Who would believe that?"
I hold up the jar, "Don't tempt me. I haven't fleshed that out yet,
but when I'm done, nobody will be surprised if I kill you."
Alex laughs, "If you loved Carla this much, why didn't you ever ask
"I was building up to it. You knew that I liked her but you couldn't
keep your paws off."
"What, I'm supposed to wait forever for you?" Alex says shrugging.
"I waited and I gave you six months but you never asked her out. We
might not even be here if you would have just approached her."
"As though it was all that simple."
"All I can do is recommend counseling, Peter."
I smile, "The world knows who you are now, Alex. Your charade is over."
"Whatever," Alex says frowning. "Anyway, I need to get going.
It's been a long day and I've got to be at work in a couple of hours."
Carla's hand slips from mine.
"Can you just write me back home? It's a long drive."
"Fine. Do you want a ride, Carla? Or do you want to stay and talk?"
he asks, pretending to be the gentleman.
She looks at me and looks at him. "I should get going."
"Carla," I say, "am I the only sane one here? Don't you see
the evil web he's weaving?"
"Peter. I'm flattered, but I do love Alex."
She stands up and walks over to Alex.
"Here, I don't need this thing." he hands me the machine gun.
"Listen, get over it. There are a lot of beautiful women out there.
And you're a great guy...despite this."
"Bye, Peter," Carla says as she walks out of my room, her brown
hair falling between her shoulder blades.
"Give me a call," Alex says, holding the door. "We'll do
The door closes.
But you know. You can see the truth. And you demand a happy ending.
Nobody foresees an accident. Of course, it didn't help that Alex was driving
too fast when his car went over the cliff. The police find the Camaro the
next morning and, as they lift her out of the car, tell Carla that it was
a one in a million chance that Alex would be burned beyond recognition and
she would escape unscathed. She asks me to comfort her.
And we all live happily ever after.